Wobbly saffron party finding its feet in Jatland

Manohar Lal Khattar. PTI file photo

Despite a series of incidents of gross lawlessness and incessant bouts of ‘ineptness’, the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP in Haryana appears back in the reckoning ahead of the polls. The race to the finish is seeing the saffron party, for now, sprinting comfortably ahead, regardless of the odds stacked against the incumbents. 

Much of the turnaround has come about arguably not because of BJP’s own good showing all these years. A fragile fragmented principal opposition party and an uncertain Congress plagued with serious infighting has saffron party leaders smiling all the way. 

RSS ideologue and first-time CM Khattar’s unblemished image has superseded the issues downsizing him. Over a dozen MLAs were once ‘up in arms’ against Khattar. Some of BJP MPs too were vocal against him. But Khattar managed to tide over the crisis proving his dissenters that he no longer was a greenhorn.

Unlike in Punjab, the public sentiment in support of Modi appears somewhat still playing out in Haryana. This is a significant factor to keep Khattar and the BJP afloat. It worked well in 2014 when BJP put up its best performance bagging seven out of 10 seats. The same year months later, the BJP romped home to victory in the assembly elections in Jatland, courtesy once again the Modi factor.

Khattar’s twin-formula of success remains the same this time around: Sing paeans for Modi and polarize non-Jat votes. The coronation of Khattar as CM, the first non-Jat CM in 18 years, was a move aimed at laying the foundation for galvanizing non-Jat voters in Jatland in its favour. That worked well and BJP’s success in the Mayor polls and recent by-elections bears testimony to its strategy to covertly play the non-Jat card in Jat-dominated Haryana. 

Chautala’s INLD appears down in dump owing to a family split. Its breakaway faction, the Janata Jananayak Party (JJP), will eat into its parent party vote bank, mostly the Jats.

The ugly Jat quota agitation and the violent protest and killings after the conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief had put the BJP on the backfoot. Khattar’s mundane governance did not help much. But the developments that have unfolded ahead of polls have provided the BJP with a fresh lease of life.

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